Beowulf and Personal Study Habits
In an article written in 1984 titled “The Nature of Christianity in Beowulf,” Edward Irving considers Christian references and themes in the poem. In his initial statements, Irving writes about the tedious nature of his inquiry, saying, “Impatience with this slow process can send us all looking up answers in an answer-book, an outside authority, an artificially constructed environment of meaning…but the trouble is that as these sought-for answers grow clearer and clearer, the poem itself begins to grow dimmer and disappear.” In other words, the more you rely on others’ conclusions, the less you see for yourself.
Irving’s statements struck a chord in me concerning the challenging and sometimes tedious process of diligent, exegetical Bible study. When mental exhaustion hits, the temptation to run to a commentary for a quick answer presents itself. However, the more rewarding choice is to set the text aside, return with a fresh mind after a break, and dive in again. When God’s message coalesces for you, His light will brighten your mind, and you will agree you have spent your time and energy well.
As evidenced by 2 Peter 3:16, some Scriptures are difficult to understand and easy to misapply. Difficult, yes. Impossible? No. Do not grow so discouraged in studying God’s Word that you turn from the Scriptures and cling to uninspired literature in their stead. Otherwise, those quick-canned religious quips will roll off your tongue while the Scriptures grow dimmer and may disappear from your thoughts altogether.
Obey the command given to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Be diligent in your work with the word of truth. Even the best commentary cannot adequately replace your study of God’s Word.